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Thermal Videos Reveal Heavy Pollution From the Texas Oil Boom

Environmentalists say the fracking boom in the Permian Basin is a ticking “climate bomb.”

A flare burns off gas into the atmosphere at a Permian Basin oil field in Eddy County, New Mexico, on April 23, 2020.

Part of the Series

Sharon Wilson, an activist documenting the latest fracking boom in Texas, recently returned from the United Nations climate summit and was “devastated” when the final agreement did not mention any reduction in oil and gas drilling. Wilson uses a thermographic camera to capture pollution spewing from fossil fuel infrastructure in the Permian Basin, where oil production is projected to increase by 50 percent over the next decade. Mike Ludwig asks Wilson what the Permian “climate bomb” looks like up close and personal.

Music by Dan Mason.


This is a rush transcript lightly edited for brevity.

Welcome back to Climate Front Lines, the podcast exploring the people and places on the front lines of the climate crisis. Today’s episode will take us from the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to the Permian Basin, a vast shale formation across West Texas and eastern New Mexico, where oil production is projected to increase by 50 percent over the next decade as the latest fracking and drilling boom continues.

Our guide to the Permian Basin is Sharon Wilson, a senior field advocate and optical gas imaging thermographer with the environmental group Earthworks. Using an infrared thermal imaging camera, Wilson has documented oil booms in Texas for over a decade, and her videos capture startling images of toxic pollution and greenhouse gases that are invisible to the naked eye. Environmentalists say the drilling boom in the Permian Basin is a “climate bomb” that will feed expanding pipelines, petrochemical plants and export terminals, ensuring that the United States will continue exporting oil to be burned in other countries for decades to come. Truthout’s Candice Bernd published a great story on all that yesterday, and you should definitely check it out. But I wanted to ask Sharon Wilson what the Permian “climate bomb” looks like up close and personal in the fracking fields of West Texas.

But the first stop is the United Nation’s COP26 summit that wrapped up last weekend, where the latest global warming agreement left advocates disappointed to say the least. Sharon Wilson had just returned from the conference when I spoke to her on Tuesday. The nations of the world did agree — on a voluntary basis I might add — to “phase-down” rather than “phase-out” unabated coal burning and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, but Sharon Wilson says she was “devastated” when the agreement said nothing about reducing the production of oil and natural gas. Wilson was also shocked by the industry’s influence at the summit. In the Blue Zone, an area where delegates and others with UN credentials gathered, Wilson saw what she describes as a “propaganda poster” boasting about what the fossil fuel industry claims to be doing right, from promoting women’s rights to creating jobs. But Wilson was not allowed to bring her own message into the conference. Let’s listen to the interview.

Sharon Wilson: The thing that, the thing that was so crazy about this poster, this oil and gas poster was that I had a poster that just said, ask me about methane from oil and gas. And I was not allowed to bring that poster inside. They wouldn’t let me bring it in the blue zone. They said, well, we’re going to get an approval. We have to get an approval for it and we’ll let you know, we kept emailing them, asking for the approval and it never was approved and

Mike Ludwig: Approval to carry a sign into the convention, like a permit?

SW: It had to be an approval from someone at the UN. Everything apparently had to be approved … every poster you know … they even wanted to approve or scrutinize the scarves we were wearing that said you know, something about climate change.

So everything had to be scrutinized and approved and yet, they approved a poster that was pure propaganda from the oil and gas industry. I want to know who is in charge of that. And how did that happen? Because we know why we were there at that conference. It’s a climate change conference that we are there because of oil and gas. So it seemed pretty outrageous to me that that could happen.

ML: Then what about the final agreement … there’s like a, a push to phase out coal, but didn’t really say that much about oil and gas. What’s your take?

SW: Well, I think they even softened the language around coal. Phase out, they softened that language and I can’t remember the exact phrasing.

They also softened the language about oil and gas subsidy. So it was … basically weasel language that they used in talking about phasing out coal and talking about subsidies to oil and gas. So. You know, and, and they also used weasel language and support for island nations and other vulnerable communities that are the first to feel the dramatic impacts from climate change countries, rich countries should be paying some kind of restitution and pay, to provide help to those nations, where they are feeling the direct impacts. And we didn’t.

ML: You know, I think it’s interesting that you were talking about getting permission to bring a sign about climate change into a climate change conference, a global climate change conference where the fossil fuel industry had plenty of messaging, but you’re also … in Texas where it’s one of the easiest places to get permission or permit to drill for oil and gas and process it.

And can you tell us a little bit about where you live and the kind of land that you work on? As a watchdog of the industry.

SW: I currently live in Dallas and I moved here because there is no active oil and gas drilling here. Years ago in 1996, I bought land in the country and it was in Wise County, Texas, just north of the DFW metroplex. And that’s where George Mitchell was experimenting to learn how to extract oil and gas from shale rock.

ML: Who is George Mitchell?

SW: George Mitchell is known as the father of fracking. And he, he founded Mitchell energy that he later sold to Devin Energy, but he married the two technologies, hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling so that it, you know, he actually developed the technology that made it possible to produce oil and gas from shale.

And if he hadn’t developed that technology, we would probably all have clean, renewable energy right now, but that happened right in my backyard. Pretty soon … soon after I moved out there. So I experienced direct impacts on my property. The air turned brown. We had smog out in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing, there were no highways, there was nothing out there but oil and gas extraction and we developed smog and then eventually my water turned black. And so, that’s how I got involved in being an activist.

ML: That’s so interesting because here’s where fracking first was developed. And it’s almost a preview of what the boom, the fracking boom across the country would look like with allegations of water contamination, contamination by wastewater, into, into rivers and streams and lakes. And also air pollution that’s associated with the oil and gas production. When we were told, you know, 10, 15 years ago that fracking was, was very safe and of course it took years, but the research finally came in. That it does cause ground water pollution and obviously oil and gas development and processing is also a big source of methane.

Is that part of the work that you do in Texas?

SW: Yes. Initially I learned that these cameras exist, optical gas imaging cameras. And this was back in 2012. Maybe when I first ran across this information. Nope. Before then even, I got my hands on some state optical gas imaging videos that made the pollution from oil and gas visible, because it’s normally invisible it.

If you look at a site, it just looks, it looks like some tanks and some metal and different pieces of equipment, but you can’t see these clouds of pollution that are coming from these pieces of equipment without an optical gas imaging camera.

So at first I wanted to, Earthworks to get one of these cameras because, the oil and gas industry would plop down next to someone like they did me. And if that person said, you know, we’re smelling horrible odors, we’re getting sick. The oil and gas industry would say, it’s not us. It’s look, you can see our equipment is all claimed. There’s nothing coming out of it. It’s not.

I kid you not, they told people it’s the candles you’re burning in your house. It’s the Windex you’re using to clean that’s what’s causing your health impacts. And it’s not this giant elephant that plopped down right next to your yard. That’s passing this methane gas, not us. So I wanted to help people who were in that situation by getting a video of the pollution and show them that, yes, you’re not crazy. This is what’s happening. And I’ve had people openly weep when I show them. Yes, you’re right. You are being polluted. Because you know, this is some pretty intense gaslighting that people experience from the oil and gas industry.

So that was initially I wanted to help people help communities, but now it is a global issue and what’s happening in Texas and in all over the U S is impacting people all around the globe. And especially Texas is a really bad actor in climate change.

ML: And is that because of the amount of methane that is being released by the expanding industry there? I mean, there’s been a massive boom fracking boom in Texas, as there was earlier in Pennsylvania and also in other parts of the west, but the Permian basin, which is what the industry calls that area of west, Texas and New Mexico is seeing a big boom. And, and that’s not just of drilling rigs, right? That’s also of processing and transport and infrastructure pipeline, and methane can leak from that. Is that what your videotapes are finding is, is methane spewing out of this equipment, and is that your biggest concern of the air pollution, at least on a global scale?

SW: The methane? Yes, we are finding methane and volatile organic compounds and the methane is a huge concern for climate globally for climate change, the volatile organic compounds are a huge concern for the people, the communities who live, where this is happening with this right in their backyards, because volatile organic compounds contain things like methane, benzene, toiling, ethyl, benzene, xylene, things that are known to be very harmful to human health. Methane is harmful to the climate. It creates some it’s helps create ozone, but it’s not, it doesn’t, it’s not toxic to humans. It’s in this so you can suffocate it can displace oxygen, but the main concern with the health impacts are the gases that come with methane, the volatile organic compounds. So what’s happening is, and the Permian basin, boom is just the latest boom in Texas. The first boom, the first fracking boom was in the Barnett shale, where, and then it expanded to the Eagle Ford shale on the Haynesville shale and now the Permian basin. And it’s basically all over Texas. We have oil and gas it’s everywhere, but the Permian basin is the lightest one and it’s a very big basin. So it’s a huge area. And we’re producing, I think about 5 million barrels of oil per day, and it’s expected to double By 2030.

So president Biden said, you know, he tried to float this basically BS that America is back at the climate conference and we’re leading the way and you can’t be a leader on solving climate change. If you intend to double production and we have more production today than we did when Trump was president.

So we’re actually going backward.

ML: You know, I think if you brought this up with the Biden administration, they might point to the Environmental Protection Agency and say, Hey, we are trying right now to develop new regulations for methane, which basically would require the industry to update their equipment, to prevent leaks because a lot of the methane emissions are the gas they’re producing from natural gas fields, or maybe from oil wells being vented or leaked in the atmosphere. Do you think that goes far enough or do you think we need to be moving beyond these fossil fuel?

SW: Well, we have to move beyond. I mean, the science is clear that we have to move beyond also fuels and we have to do it fast. And even the International Energy Agency, the IEA, which was created to basically ensure a steady supply of oil and gas, they said no new investment in oil and gas after this year, after this year and it’s November. So even, even they say we have to get off oil and gas, but I heard nothing about that at the COP.

And, you know, passing methane rules is good. We need methane rules. I need to, I need to understand how they expect to enforce these rules. First of all, a lot of the technologies that they claim will capture the emissions. I document those failing all the time. And most of these technologies depend on reliable electricity. In west Texas, we don’t have reliable electricity anymore. The intention, whether that’s been created, we had that bad freeze that a lot of places were out of electricity for 10 days. And that’s our more and that’s a time when with no electricity, there is no methane captured.

So besides the problems with the technology, how are they going to enforce this? Because oil and gas is everywhere. And if there’s anything that I have learned after a decade of work, or more than a decade of work on trying to do something about oil and gas emissions, they are not going to do it voluntarily. So it’s going to take. A lot of inspections, a lot of enforcements, and that will take an army.

So what army are we going to hire to regulate oil and gas, and who’s going to pay for it?

ML: I want to really drill into this because you’re in a unique position in Texas, which is known as one of the least regulated states for fossil fuel production. At least at the time the state level. What has your experience been? If you would go a little bit more in depth about, about being on the ground and attempting to have the rules and forest documenting pollution and attempting to have the industry be held accountable to people.

SW: Yeah, it is very depressing. So since 2014 is when I was certified as an optical gas imaging, demographer, and it’s the same certification that the industry gets.And I use the same equipment that they use. In fact, when I got certified, I was in a classroom full of industry camera operators. So, I started. After I got certified, I started submitting video as evidence to the state of Texas with a complaint. And oftentimes the complaint was accompanied by people who lived nearby.

I’ve submitted over 240 of those complaints. And a lot of times I find so much that it’s just triage. I can only do, I’m just one person. I can only do so much. So I don’t make a complaint on everything, but I’ve made it, I’ve made over 240 is probably approaching 300 complaints with video evidence proof that this facility is polluting and Texas has only taken action in a fraction of those maybe 10 percent.

And then when they do take action, they often do not follow up to see whatever they required the industry to do was completed and that whatever fix the industry does the operator does at their site. It doesn’t last. You can go back to this site in six weeks and find the same problem. So they have this equipment has to be constantly maintained, are, you know, it just doesn’t work.

And even in one case, this is so outrageous. I have. It’s not, it’s not the only outrageous thing, but it’s one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever witnessed an operator drilled holes in 18 tanks. And so I kept reporting. I kept sending videos. I didn’t know they drilled holes, but I knew there was a lot of pollution coming from these towns.

So I kept sending compliance and sending compliance. And finally, I did an open records request and learned that one of those complaints, they finally did an investigation and they learned that the operator had drilled holes in 18 tanks. The operator did not receive a violation for deliberately drilling holes in their tanks. They did however, receive a violation because they had been operating for years without a permit.

ML: that common in Texas? Cause it’s such a drill baby drill attitude. And it’s been kind of an oil man’s paradise for a hundred years that people will just start drilling without applying for a permit, knowing that if they get caught, they’ll just get a slap on the wrist and file up the paperwork?

SW: It is, it’s apparently very common. We have found a number of sites where they don’t get that they’ll get a permit to drill, but then there are other permits that are required after they get a permit to drill. And one of those permits is. Want to operate a flare for more than 10 days, the first 10 days is a, you get a pass to operate a flyer.

And then after that you have to get a permit or an, a rule 32 exemption. And we did an analysis of observed flares in the Permian basin in one region of the Permian basin and of those observed, 84 percent did not have a permit. Even big companies did not have a permit to operate the flare. So it was such an alarming discovery that we sent the report to the railroad commission and they said, oh, you’re wrong.

It’s only 69 percent of the flares that are un-permitted, but they did not provide any proof, not even a response to our request for proof that those additional flares had a permit. They just were just supposed to take them at their word. So somewhere between 84 percent and 6 percent of the flares in that region of the observed flares were unpermitted.

And we found many cases where, they don’t require the operator to follow through and get the additional permits needed after they drill. So, yeah, it’s kind of a wild west atmosphere and it’s pretty lawless.

ML: I want to just jump in and note that the railroad commission is actually the regulatory agency in Texas that does this permitting for oil and gas permits that are supposed to have environmental concerns and implications. And I also want to just note that I’ve seen your videos and they are pretty alarming. And to just kind of describe them for a second, you could be looking at some piece of oil and gas infrastructure, you know, maybe a pipeline. What would you call it? Like a terminal or a place for pipelines connect.What kind of infrastructure do you normally look at?

SW: We look at everything. So it’s, it all starts with a hole in the ground. And that is where you’ll find the well site and there’ll be tanks and some other equipment their tanks are a lot of a big problem because they can’t, they have to release pressure. They have to off gas. And so they don’t really, I mean, they can’t. The gas in a tank, the tanks hold liquids, but the liquids have associated gas that off gases and they vent that. And then they have flares on most of these sites and the oil and gas industry cannot properly operate a flare to save their lives.

ML: Let’s just clarify really quick what a flare is. And I’ve seen these in their very alarming and we need to think about flaring in context of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is much more intensive than carbon dioxide. It is what is produced when oil and gas drilling, you know, releases natural gases from below the earth, and it is flared literally straight into the atmosphere. And can you tell us more about what that looks like and what the problems are with this?

SW: It’s terrifying to see a flare up close. It’s terrifying to look out at night and see how many flares there are. It looks like a big pipe and on top of the pipe is a flame. And when you get up close, you can hear it roaring like a jet engine.

Sometimes you can barely talk because they’re so loud and that’s how much pressure and force. These flares are burning off the gas that is produced because in the Permian basin, they, the target is oil. That’s what they want is the oil. A lot of gas comes up with the oil and they want to just get rid of it because the prices are low.

It costs them to transport it in a pipeline to market. So they’re either going to VIN it or they’re going to burn it in a flare. The prop flares that are lit are doing what they’re supposed to supposed to do. They’re scary. They do pollute, they put out CO2, a formaldehyde, rarely does a flare burn efficiently.

They’re supposed to burn 98 percent efficiently in Texas. And that’s pretty rare. But the, the biggest problem that we see with flares is that they cannot keep them live. So when they go, when the flame goes out, you have a pipe that to the naked eye just looks like a pipe, but then with the camera, you can see this giant cloud of methane and volatile, organic compounds just blasting out.

And if you get downwind from that, it’s pretty horrifying. I mean, you actually are convinced that you cannot breathe and you’re going to die unless you get out of the past. Keep in mind, some people in Texas people can live 200 feet sometimes even closer from one of these flares. And when it becomes unlit, they’re stuck there.

They can’t drive away. Like I do. They’re stuck there. They either have to go stay somewhere else until they like the flare. Are they just get sick or they have to abandon their property. It’s it’s horrible. So the flares are a big problem.

ML: I mean, and this is natural gas and methane that not only is very climate intensive and turn of green greenhouse gases. This is actually stuff that could be captured and used as fuel, but because fracking has made guests so cheap, they just burn it off directly into the atmosphere. Or like you said, they just vent it. If it’s not burning and I’ve seen your videos, they’re quite startling. You could look at a piece. Oil and gas infrastructure, like a tank or a flare and see nothing just with the naked eye, but then you look at your videos and you can just see the emissions blowing into the sky.

SW: Yeah, it’s, it’s horrifying. And the industry, I have seen them get quite creative at using our atmosphere to dump their methane into, just find all different ways that they can a dump it because you can’t see it. If you don’t have a camera, you don’t know it’s happening. And oil and gas is everywhere in Texas. It’s in people’s backyards. It’s all over, out in the remote areas. So that’s again. Bringing it back to this thought of the methane rules, which we need, but how are they going to enforce these rules? Because it will take vigorous enforcement and investigations to ever bring methane down. And I do not believe.

That methane levels will decrease in our atmosphere until they stop permitting new oil and gas. I do not believe that you can reduce methane while producing more and more methane.

ML: And as far as regulations go, I’ve heard that you’ve probably inspected with your camera, more pieces of oil and equipment then the regulators or maybe even the industry?

SW: We did an open records request and asked one region in one regional office in the Permian base. For the spreadsheet that showed how often they checked out their optical gas imaging camera. And during the timeframe that we asked for these records, they checked the camera out 44 times. I did over 300 individual investigations during that same time before.

ML: Now as far as preventing new permits, keeping the fossil fuels in the ground, the, by the administration might argue that they only have kind of powered to prevent drilling on public lands, which Biden did put a moratorium on drilling and public lands. Unfortunately, it got challenged in court. There’s an injunction and I believe. Personally, I believe due to a lot of tension already within the interior department, we’re seeing interior agencies. Once again began leasing out public lands and waters such as the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies.

Is that an issue in the Permian basin in Texas? Are there public lands that the federal government is still giving away to the oil and gas and.

SW: Texas has a very few federal lands. I mean, just a tiny, tiny bit in Texas. We do have Texas operated Texas lands, but that’s different than the federal lands, but Biden could take action today, right now this moment, he could declare a national climate emergency. That would give him expanded executive powers. And with those, he could reinstate the crude oil export ban. That was overturned in 2015, when they overturned this decades, old crude oil export ban that gave birth to the Permian basin because we can’t.

We don’t have the capacity to refine the light sweet crude coming from the Permian basin. So it has to be exported and executives of top oil and gas companies have said from here on out, every molecule will be exported. That may be a slight exaggeration, but most of it is exported. So. Biden’s expanded powers under a national climate emergency.

He could reinstate that crude oil export ban. That means that the Permian basin would not double in project and production. By 2030, it would country start contracting and you know, a lot of that production and that would solve a huge part of the problem. He also would be able to. Deny certain large infrastructure projects that he would keep us locked in two decades, more oil and gas use.

So there’s many things that he can do with those expanded powers and why he hasn’t done that. I don’t know. He made campaign promises and he said on the campaign trail, the buck stops with me. So stop blaming Congress. On not taking these actions and just do what needs to be done, declare a national climate emergency.

ML: SO what would you like to see from Congress? Are you excited about a green, new deal? Are you excited about the infrastructure packages that of Democrats have been working on or do you think we need to be thinking even bigger?

SW: I would be very excited about the green new deal. I think that would be amazing, but it seems to be dead on arrival right now.I think Congress needs to work together to stop stop the subsidies that go to oil and gas. Give those instead to clean, renewable energy, to alternatives, to things like the fertilizer and plastics, so that those there are alternatives, but they don’t have the capital to expand. So we need to take money away from the oil and gas industry and give it to renewable energy and real alternatives.

Not these. Things like the carbon capture, which is just another way to an industry scheme to keep expanding and keep creating sacrificed phones. Congress should stop all new permits. There should be, we don’t need more oil and gas. We’re we’re drowning in oil and gas. So stop all new permits and only issue a new permit under very strict.

Regulations and requirements, and then somehow try to get your arm or arms around regulating all this mess we have out there. There are some policies that have been written where To create a federal program to charge a tax, a carbon tax to the industry, to fund a federal program where they hire workers to clean up and plug all the abandoned Wells that are all over littering.

The whole country. That will end up costing taxpayers, trillions to take care of if we don’t get that program started right now. So there are a lot of things that could happen. And I don’t know. Biden is president Biden is. The leader of our country. He is the leader of Congress. Get your people in line, pass some real measures.

The infrastructure bill had some good things in it, but it also gave the oil and gas industry over $24 billion. Part of that is to, is to be given to the state. The states are the ones who created the problem, but they want to give this taxpayer money to the states to start plugging and cleaning up old oil and gas Wells.

Now, if they give it to the railroad commission, Christie Craddick has probably already started way the plugin, LLC. And she’s going to get some, you know, they’re going to find a way to give that money to their crony. To, you know, capitalize it on it themselves because it’s just the oil and gas industry in Texas is just corrupt.

ML: Who is Christie?

SW: She is on the railroad commission she’s a commissioner, they have three commissioners and they are elected and all three of them get elected because they get a ton of oil and gas money and they, they call themselves the railroad commission. So people don’t really know what they’re in charge of.

So voters, you know, just vote without really thinking it through. And all three of the commissioners are invested. They have. Investments in the companies that they’re supposed to regulate.

ML: Now, what do voters and Texans think about? All this? Texas has a long history of oil and gas. People have gotten rich off of it. Also, there was a very intense winter storm that was hugely destructive that scientists said could have been linked to climate change. And also, like you’ve said, the oil and gas industry dominates the landscape and pollutes near people’s homes. What are Texans thinking about?

SW: Well, you have to remember that the oil and gas industry has lied to you and gaslighted the American public for decades. When I started speaking out and trying to sound the warnings warning signs, I got sued twice trying to shut me up. So there’s been intense intimidation and a lot of propaganda pumped to Texans by. And the other, the other part of that with voting is we have some of the most regressive voting laws in the country.

It is harder to vote in Texas than anywhere else in the United States. So we’ve got, I think voters are concerned. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to, to actually go vote.

ML: Right. And when we talk about industry capture the. The industry has over politics in Texas, obviously a place where Republicans have the governor’s office and have dominated in the legislature and also use that majority to pass a very restrictive voting law. How does the industry play out in state politics?

SW: They have a pipeline that goes straight to Austin and it just pumps it’s oil and gas money. It is drenched in dirty oil and gas money. So I’m really, I don’t know if voters can vote. Maybe they can change, turn the situation around, but I think a lot of the pressure is going to have to be external because Texas is ruining things, not just for.

It’s ruining things for all of us, for every person on this planet. And so we need some external pressure. Another thing that the Biden EPA could do is they could step in and Texas and resend the implementation of the clean air act. So the EPA turned over implementation of the Clean Air Act to states. It’s really not turned out very well in any state. No state does a good job of regulating oil and gas, but especially in Texas, they need to rescind that implementation and step in and take over themselves.

ML: Right. And what you’re saying is, is that there’s an exemption basically where the state regulators in Texas, which I guess would be the railroad commission have primacy or they’re, they’re in the position to do most of the regulating and the federal government, the EPA kind of steps back, is that correct?

ML: Well, that’s partially correct to make things a little more confusing in Texas, we have two environmental agencies, the Texas commission on environmental quality regulates most of the air police. The railroad commission regulates the oil and gas permits and some other things about oil and gas.

So they have a memorandum of understanding that no one really understands very well, including people who work for the agencies, but basically. The Texas commission on environmental quality regulates air pollution. And the railroad commission is over issuing drilling, permits, and some water pollution and things like that.

ML: What if one of these agencies may be the environmental quality agency called you up and said, Hey, we know that you’re out here with your camera. I’m finding this pollution. Why don’t you come work for us? Or do you think it’d be important to maintain your independence?

ML: Well funny that you should mention that because we have on contract a former TCEQ regulator who worked for TCEQ for 30 years and he helped start there optical gas imaging, some graphy program.

He was over the mobile lab. So he had. Quite a bit of responsibility for air pollution in Texas. And he retired early because he wanted to do more and it, he wants to do something more to help the environment. And he knew that TCEQ wasn’t getting it, getting it done.

ML: That’s so interesting. Do you have any final thoughts?

Just on Texas or on the United nations climate summit?

SW: I think that the climate summit so far was a failure. I know it was a failure, but I think we can’t give up hope. We have to get. Angry. We have to get involved and we need to really push president Biden. We need to push him really hard because there are things that he could do and he’s not doing them.

ML: Well, thank you so much, Sharon Wilson for joining us today on Climate Front Lines.

SW: Thank you for having me.

I like to end this podcast on a positive note, but that’s tough to do after everything we’ve heard from Sharon Wilson about the “climate bomb” going off in Texas. Wilson has a tough job; like many journalists, activists and researchers, she watches the destruction of the planet unfold before her very eyes –and in infrared. After reporting on environmental injustice for the past decade, I know how heavy it can feel. But I’m glad that the Sharon Wilsons of the world are out there exposing the fossil fuel pollution that powerful industries don’t want us to see. The climate crisis can seem abstract sometimes; in the news, we are constantly bombarded with figures estimating how so many tons of carbon and methane emissions will likely result in this or that degree of warming and disruption, but actually seeing those emissions up close – and confronting the polluters – puts the challenges we face, and what must be done about them, into perspective. Climate disruption is a global problem, but if we learned anything from the latest UN summit, action must be taken locally and on the front lines.

If you enjoyed our interview and want to help us spread the word, please rate and share this podcast and subscribe on your podcast platform to hear our latest episodes. Climate Front Lines is produced by Jared Rodriguez and me, Mike Ludwig. Thank you for listening and until next time, remember, where there is a movement, there is hope.

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